Alex Garland makes an impressive directorial debut. He also wrote the thought-provoking script, adding to his resume of fine science fiction, which includes the novel The Beach and the screenplays for 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd. Combined with the beautiful cinematography by Rob Hardy, Ex Machina is a stunning visual experience from the gorgeous secluded island landscapes to the modern facility where most of the story takes place. The special effects are top notch and not overwhelming, packing a punch when needed.
The pacing and mise en scene would make Stanley Kubrick proud as the plot points slowly but intriguingly unfold, building up to an exciting but not overdone climax. If you've enjoyed cinema classics that explored themes of artificial intelligence, you'll love this new take on the genre. I wouldn't hesitate adding Ex Machina to the same level of achievement as Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The script is good, but the performances are what elevate this to a higher level. The cast is riveting. If you enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you'll recognize Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb and Oscar Isaac as Nathan. Both are strong and solid, bringing equal measures of empathy and menace to their roles. Sonoya Mizuno as Kyoko makes the most of every minute of screen time, even though she has no dialogue at all. The scene-stealer throughout the movie is Alicia Vikander as Ava. Her choices are subtle, yet powerful.
Ex Machina raises questions and then offers a satisfying ending. If you missed it in theaters, catch it on-demand or through various streaming services.